Something troubling you? Share it with your new BFs, Jo Davison and Nik Brear
I am 42 and live on my own. But I’m quite happy with that - I like my own company and am not looking for a man to ‘make my life complete’, the way some women seem to be on a mission to be.
I’ve had long relationships but have never lived with anyone and have never wanted to have a husband. I dedicate myself to my job so much, it feels like I’m married to the factory where I work on the management team. I love my work and my team. We all get along very well.
So what’s my problem? Well, I’m starting to worry that I’m using alcohol as my prop in life.
I work long hours. I usually get home late and feeling so tired that I don’t bother to eat properly. I just make something simple, like beans on toast, or order a takeaway.
But my main form of relaxation comes from a bottle of wine. I like a couple of glasses when I get in. Sometimes, after a few Chardonnays I realise I don’t even want the beans on toast.
I don’t get drunk, but I do sometimes fall asleep and wake up in the early hours of the morning to find I’m in my chair and the radio or TV is still blaring away. Not that it matter to anyone but me, I suppose.
I have now started to realise that I now want to open a bottle as soon as I get in - and that more often than not, I either finish the bottle, or have to force myself not to.
When I put the empties out for the recycling the other week, it shocked me how many there were. Out of embarrassment, and worried about what the neighbours might think about the ‘middle-aged lush’ living next door, I kept a few bottles back and took them to the supermarket recycling bin the next day.
I’ve known alcoholics and don’t think I am one. My health is fine, to my knowledge, and my work isn’t suffering. But I do realise that I could potentially be doing myself harm.
I’ve read all the stories about women only being advised to drink so many units of alcohol a week and I am way over that.
Am I developing a drink problem?
My dear, methinks though doth protest - and drink - too much.
You admit to one, but not the other. You’re adamant you are happy with your life. But someone who can’t be bothered to make herself a decent meal and drinks herself to sleep most nights doesn’t sound all that happy to me.
There is no self-nurture going on in your life. Oh, you might think it’s indulgent to treat yourself to a tipple or two, or three or four, of an evening. But that’s not nurture; it’s anaesthetic.
Where is the love? By that, I don’t only mean it’s lacking because there is no partner in your life. It feels like you don’t love yourself. I’d guess that is the root cause of your single status. It’s not that you don’t want a partner; you think you don’t deserve one.
It’s interesting that you deride other women for ‘being on a mission’ to find a man in order to feel ‘complete’. You imply that they are less of a person because they ‘need’ a man. Yet you then admit you drink yourself to sleep most nights and are getting through so many bottles of wine you’re ashamed to put the empties out. You ‘need’ the booze. I think you are far less of a whole person than someone who sets out heart in hand to find a happy relationship.
Am you drinking too much? Without a doubt. You know that - and that your dependency on alcohol is becoming a dangerous addiction. Tell your doctor. And take a look at a website called soberistas.com - it was set up by a Sheffield woman whose drinking got out of hand. She hopes to help others realise yearning for Wine O’Clock is the sign of a drink problem.
You say your health is fine, but if your diet consists of beans on toast or a takeaway washed down nightly with a bottle of wine, that obviously isn’t true. Especially if, as you say, you sometimes don’t even bother with the food.
The healthy guidelines for women - which exist for a reason - say you shouldn’t regularly drink more than 14 units a week. By your own admission you are regularly downing more than 60. I think you’re right to be worried.
If you’re single and happy about it, that’s absolutely fine, but it does mean that you have to make more of an effort to look out for yourself, as nobody else will.
If you really want to see if you have problem, commit to a drink-free week. Find another way to relax and unwind after a long day at work, like a soak in the tub or invite a friend over and cook a meal together. Don’t tempt yourself in this week, keep the cupboards bare and see how you fare.
You say you don’t get drunk, but with the amount you’re drinking it’s clear you should be. If you drink regularly, your body starts to build up a tolerance to alcohol which I think is what’s happening here. It’s definitely time for a break and possibly to examine what drinking gives you that might be a clue to something that is missing.
If you manage the week no problem, that’s great. But don’t go straight back to old habits. At least cut back to the recommended weekly units and concentrate on eating well and looking after yourself.
If you don’t manage it, at least you’ll have answered your question and know that it’s time to get help.
Nicky Valantine, a Sheffield lifestyle coach, advises:
You are aware and taking action by asking for help - so well done. But what’s the real story? I’m hearing`your life is OK, but would it be possible for things to be better? The answer is YES! Allow yourself to dream of a better life.
The nightly glasses of wine are just a diversion tactic. What are you NOT paying attention to? Spending a long time at work, again is possibly more about avoidance than you loving your job. Not needing a man to make your life complete? I totally agree, yet I also believe a loving and supportive partner can bring more joy to life. Apply some of your work skills to your personal life, set some goals and ask yourself; What do I want to achieve, who do I want it for and why do I want it? When do I want to achieve it by - and how will I know when I’ve achieved it?
What would you advise? You can offer your own words of wisdom. Send your 200-word answer to this week’s problem. We’ll publish the best next week. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org (include A Problem Shared in the notes field and add your name, age, occupation and area of Sheffield you live in).